This is a guest post by one of my best friends. Jess is a writer and high school English teacher. I’m not going to give her much more intro than that or add any of my own comments to her post. I believe greatly in the power of words and I want her words here to be completely her own. So, here’s Jess…
2019: A Year Without Social Media
Yeah, you read that right. I’m a married 20-something on the cusp of 2020, and I have been absent from social media for a year. I’ve had to think about who I really am and what really matters to me, and this is what I know: I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, the words in the Bible are truth, and I stand on more conservative than liberal values. I’m an anxious, people-pleasing woman seeking approval from the world even though I know my worth is found in God alone, and I’m a teacher in a public school. In my short career, I’ve learned to be very careful with my words for fear of bringing politics or religion into the classroom. While I used to love writing and blogging, I’ve become crippled with fear of judgement because how I strive to live my life doesn’t align with modern American culture.
This isn’t meant to be polarizing, but I needed you to know who I am before I share what God has done in my life during 2019 through my lack of a social media presence. I used to be ALL about it, and don’t mistake me, I don’t think it’s inherently bad. I think my anxious, people-pleasing self became addicted, and all it did for me was put me in the trap of comparison and jealousy and make me lose sight of what really matters.
A few other things you need to know about me: I’m 5’10”, taller than the average model, but my body type is far from what’s seen as beautiful on Instagram, and to be honest, I’ve let myself go with no consistent diet or exercise. I know I don’t look the way I could, and I struggle with that. Also important: the social media accounts I completely wiped were my Snapchat, my Instagram, my Facebook, and my professional Twitter. I did keep my Pinterest, and I also picked up a YouTube habit over the last year.
I don’t miss it.
The first thing I want people to know is that I didn’t miss social media this year, not even once. I truly thought I would, and while sometimes it was awkward when I’d pick my phone up in a situation where I previously would’ve checked social media, I found other things to do on my phone, including binging YouTube and playing games. I don’t advocate for too much of either of those pastimes either, but for me and my mindset a year ago, neither YouTube nor game apps sparked the feelings in me that Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter did.
I would love to say I used my phone less, but I’m not sure that’s true. I do know that I felt more present in my own life since I didn’t have to constantly think about how I was going to portray each moment on social media. You hear the people who do exactly this and act like they don’t say over and over again: people post their highlight reel to social media. We all know that by now, but in my brain, knowing that didn’t make it any easier to look at skinny, pretty girls I both knew personally or didn’t know at all post “effortlessly” about their perfectly imperfect lives.
Another thing you need to know about me: I developed anxiety and depression for the first time in my life during the fall semester of 2018. There were some things going on at work that were too much, and remember how I said I’m married? Yeah, that’s actually super tough and not at all happily ever after. I was in a bad headspace, and social media was my escape, but really all it did was taunt me and make me think my life was even worse than I already perceived it to be.
I found out who my friends are.
Another thing a year without social media has taught me is who my true friends and even family are. It’s so interesting to see who’s really there for you and who’s not when there’s no post for them to like. Not having social media has forced me to have some hard conversations with people I love, and unfortunately not all of those conversations have gone well. That’s been difficult to navigate, but the good news is that in real life, you don’t have to worry about deciding to “unfriend” someone or not, and you don’t have to post to make it seem like you’re doing great just because they’re posting like they are.
I feel like my relationships are more natural and authentic because people are either in my life or they’re not. It’s still a two way street, but before I’d look at my News Feed and think I had so many “good” friends, and now I can count the people I actually know and personally connect with on one hand and maybe a couple more fingers on a good day. 10 versus 800 “friends” is a drastic change, but it really puts my life and my relationships into perspective.
I officially deleted my social media accounts on New Years Eve 2019 after posting this message to my friends and followers:
Since graduating college, my life has been a whirlwind. Truth be told, I didn’t really have a plan for my life after college, and even if I did, college didn’t go as I planned it at 13-years-old so it wouldn’t have mattered anyways.
I live a very full life and God has blessed me with so much, but most days, I don’t see that. Most days, I only see the worst in my job, in my marriage, and in myself. I know that nothing in life will ever be perfect and I also know that I’m not the one making the plans; however, I used to believe that the good always outweighed the bad and although I don’t make the plans, I’ve learned that I do make the decisions every day.
I’ve hesitated to use this word to describe myself, especially publicly, because it’s something I’ve learned is so very real in our world today yet it’s also something that gets tossed around like it’s nothing so I don’t want to disrespect anyone whose struggles run deeper than mine. Ironically, there lies my problem in its entirety: comparison. My depression, I’ve discovered, is real to me and I have to do something to manage it.
At the end of this past semester, a semester that will go down in my story as a terrible nightmare with many lessons learned, my freshmen and I did a unit focused on the question, “What does it mean to be happy?” Our summative “make” was a commentary on happiness, and it broke my heart when several students confided in me that they don’t know how to write about happiness because their lives are too hard. So many of us, myself included, are right there with them.
When I was in high school, I wrote an opinion piece in the January 2012 issue of the school newspaper called “There’s More to Life Than Facebook” about why I deleted my first Facebook account in October of 2011. Even then I recognized the poison that social media can be if you let it; in fact, I wrote, “Our generation seems to be fueled by sympathetic comments made on negative posts.”
Today, my issue with social media runs deeper, although I still find that statement to be true when I scroll through my newsfeed. I see my own addiction manifesting in coveting people I don’t even know that look “good” on social media and posting myself in hopes of being just like them someday. I’m cringing even making this post because I don’t want sympathetic comments from anyone on this extremely negative post. I just want everyone to be aware of why they’ll no longer be seeing me online.
I made a new Facebook account (this one) when junior prom rolled around that same year I published the option piece because I wanted everyone to “like” my pictures. I guess 16-year-old me wasn’t as wise as she wanted to be.
The other social media revelation I feel is worth mentioning comes from when I was the VP of Risk Management for my sorority in the spring of 2016. I constantly saw all of my sisters breaking the rules and making poor choices on Snapchat but was never able to do anything to truly keep them accountable. It completely rocked my moral compass and reminded me why I despise social media. Yes, I have a problem with control, and yes, I know I can’t control the actions of others, but why constantly expose myself to something I don’t have to see? When I resigned from that position early, I deleted my first Snapchat account. This is when I truly learned to appreciate that ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, I made a new Snapchat account around college graduation, but I’m proud to say I don’t use it much.
Here I am, over 10 years wiser than when I first began exploring the world of social media, and I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with past selves that were wise beyond their years. Comparison on social media is the thief of MY joy. Besides the engagement and baby announcements, I don’t want to know half of what I see on social media because it never fails to make me feel some type of negative emotion, and 9 times out of 10 I find myself having to then deal with an issue in real life that wouldn’t have existed had there not been a post about it. I’ll say it again, I’m not posting this to get sympathy or be challenged to change my mind. I just finished reading my favorite novel Fahrenheit 451 for the third or fourth time because I FINALLY get to teach it to start off second semester, and when I finished it, I knew God answered my prayer about whether or not I should delete all of my social media accounts to kick off 2019. If you want an explanation there, go read the book and then call me so we can have a real conversation about it.
Tonight at midnight, I will be hitting delete on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even my teacher Twitter (I have to practice what I preach). My goal for 2019 is to journal my experience being part of the few in my generation absent from social media and then decide if I’d like to rejoin the many for 2020.
Thanks for reading. Have a happy new year, everyone! I’ll see you in the real world 🌎❤️
I received positive feedback, and a couple of people from my past that I had lost touch with genuinely reached out at first but unfortunately most faded away when my online presence was wiped. As for the goal I set, I journaled day one and day two, and then not really again until this month. That makes me sad because I love looking back on my documented past to see how God moved in my life, something I actually really loved about social media; however, I did journal in my Bible when I studied the book of Revelation in the spring, I did organize every photo I’ve ever taken EVER on the Cloud over the summer, and I do journal after reading devotionals more than ever before in my life. I didn’t exactly reach my goal, but I feel satisfied with my year hiatus from social media nonetheless.
Will I be back?
Now we come to the question of whether or not I’ll rejoin in 2020 because I didn’t just deactivate my accounts, I deleted EVERYTHING. I would literally have to start from scratch, which I think is a good thing, but at this point, I don’t even know what I would post or where I would draw the line with my “friends.” As I’ve pondered rejoining over the last month, I’m constantly having to check my heart because I want people to see what I’m doing more than I want to keep in touch with the people I love. Also, I’m a crazy dog mom and every single picture on my camera roll from 2019 is of my two pups, so my husband suggested I just make an Instagram for them, but I think I would still fall back into “creeping” on other people and therefore compare myself to them, which is something my YouTube habit has taught me I’m still not over.
What’s next for me then? I don’t know. I’m inspired by Stephanie May Wilson, Jordan Lee Dooley, The LaBrant Fam, and Nate and Sutton. I’ve thought so many times about restarting my own blog, lessonslearnedlifeloved.com, but as I mentioned, my job in public education makes it tough to share my personal opinions, and I don’t want to post just to be seen as someone else conformed to this world. I want to share my true, authentic story because that’s what I believe I’m called to do. 1 Chronicles 16:24 says, “Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” It’s by the grace of God that I’m able to live my life each day and share what He’s teaching me (thanks to Maggie and her blog right now), and I give Him all of the glory for what 2019 without social media has been for me.